Judith Neeld of Menemsha has accomplished a lot during her lengthy career as a poet. Five books of her poetry have been published, and her work has been featured in three different anthologies, as well as in esteemed national journals. In 1985 she was honored with the Emily Dickinson award from the Poetry Society of America.
On Thursday, Feb. 14, the Cleaveland House Poets and the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse will honor this local treasure with a celebration of her work at the Playhouse’s monthly Poetry Cafe. Members of the half-century old Cleaveland House Poets will be reading from the work of their esteemed fellow member.
“She’s a terrific poet,” says former M.V. poet laureate Arnie Reisman. “She’s extremely succinct, and she blows you away with how many layers there are to her poetry.”
As a tribute to Neeld, fellow poets Reisman, Fan Ogilvie, and Susan Puciul are in the process of issuing a collection of the 90-year-old’s published work. “Judith Neeld: Collected Poems” will be published this spring by Summerset Press, operated by Vineyarders Brooks Robards and Jim Kaplan.
In the meantime, Islanders can get a taste of Neeld’s poetry when Cleaveland House members read from her work on Valentine’s Day. Readers will include Annette Sandrock, Holly St. John Bergon, Christopher Legge, Valerie Sonnenthal, Ellie Bates, Peter Ledermann, Susan Puciul, Fan Ogilvie, and Arnie Reisman.
Reisman, who hosts the off-season Poetry Cafe, writes of Neeld in a press release, “She paints pictures with an emotional brush, of reverie yet restraint. We see through her ever-observant eye what she wants us to see, here in a snapshot of life and nature in seasonal change. She is a poet of her environment. It’s probably one of the many reasons she has chosen to live on the Vineyard since 1982.”
Perhaps another reason for her commitment to the Vineyard is the arts community, which she has contributed to in may ways in her time here. Neeld has variously served on the board of the Nathan Mayhew Seminars, edited Stone Country Magazine, and occupied the position of director of the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Workshops. And the Island has certainly embraced the awardwinning poet in return.
“Cleaveland House Poets is one of the most important cultural offerings on the Island,” said Neeld in a phone interview with Reisman. “I wouldn’t want to live without it or without the people in it.”
By Judith Neeld
That thin volume is a life
reads quickly, requires faith
in A to Z.
We have our times parsed out
pages like the tree in October
it seemed its leaves never fell
where they belonged along the ground
only scoured and sang across the wind
piled on my head
fingers of my hands.
Poetry Cafe celebrates Judith Neeld with readings of her work by members of the Cleaveland House Poets. Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7 pm. Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse lobby; $10 includes a beverage and pie.